RD Close-up: Jessica Corner, BASc., RD, In-Store Dietitian at Loblaws Bowmanville
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at Loblaws.
I work in many different capacities within the store. I host nutrition focused chef/dietitian cooking classes and support the pharmacy with any nutrition-related advice or questions their customers have. I provide individual services such as nutrition consultations and individualized grocery store tours. Customers are often looking to build nutrition plans that are tailored to their family’s health goals. I provide my customers with shopping tips, meal planning advice, and customized recipes. I am also the go-to nutrition resource for our store colleagues. From organizing healthy staff luncheons to answering nutrition related questions about store product, in-store dietitians are an invaluable resource to the grocery store team.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
I accepted a part-time position with Loblaws directly out of internship with the thought it would be a short-term experience until I found a full-time career. Little did I know, I was accepting a position that met all my career goals. I am a total ‘foodie’ and while at work I get to do what I love by preparing delicious, interesting and creative recipes for customers on a regular basis. I also get to work with many clients who are eager to make changes in their lives. Witnessing clients achieve their health goals is so fulfilling. When I first started in my role at Loblaws, I primarily worked on the store floor executing healthy food demos and running grocery store tours. Our program has changed drastically in the last six years. We are now valued members of our stores ‘heath care team’ and the automatic go-to for customer’s nutrition related questions. In January of this year, we started offering one-on-one consulting services for our customers. In the community, many local RDs refer to our in-store services as an effective way for their clients to gain practical nutrition advice.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
The biggest challenge is staying up-to-date with media trending nutrition topics. When news headlines feature anything related to food/diet/nutrition, customers often seek me out to ask my opinions on the subject. Staying current on evidence-based nutrition messaging is crucial, and being able to respond on the spot, with accuracy and professionalism is an asset to our role as retail dietitians.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I didn’t anticipate the importance of my retail background in this role and would strongly encourage experience or training in the sales and marketing industry before entering this profession. Food skills and food prep knowledge is also an important area in which to be comfortable.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
My experience with cultural food practices was limited when beginning this role and I am continuously looking for ways to enhance my awareness in this subject. Staying curious and asking lots of questions is what has really helped and taking any opportunity I can to learn more is a top priority for me.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I follow many dietitians and health professionals on social media channels to stay current with the latest popular nutrition topics. I also regularly meet with department managers to gain insight on the trendiest food products being purchased so that I can be well informed when customers ask questions about certain products. Our company also supports continuous learning and provides us with many opportunities to enhance our knowledge. For instance our team regularly attends a variety of educational sessions applicable to our field and brings the information back to educate the rest. Our team has also undergone extensive training on our motivational interviewing techniques which has had a positive impact on our new individualized dietitian services program.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
One initiative I currently work on is a partnership with my local community to support the health of pre- and postnatal women. This community-wide program includes our Public Health Unit, local recreation centres, and other community organizations. We are developing a free in-store workshop for women to learn about pre- and postnatal nutrition, baby/child feeding practices as well as a practical skills such as food preparation and shopping with a baby/toddler. The community partners I am working with conducted a survey amongst pregnant women and practical nutrition advice was identified as a need. I am excited to offer an in-store program that will directly address these survey results.
Bio: Jessica Corner graduated from Ryerson University with a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Nutrition & Food. After graduation she completed her Dietetic Internship with the Kingston FL&A Public Health Unit to become a Registered Dietitian. Jessica holds a diploma in Fitness & Lifestyle Management from George Brown College and has worked with numerous sporting teams and professional athletes to help them reach their nutrition and fitness goals. Jessica is a proud mom of four and has taken a keen interest in prenatal and postnatal nutrition, and infant and child feeding practices. Through Jessica’s personal and professional experiences she has gained a deep appreciation for the complexity of nutrition and the adjustments that are necessary to suit the needs of each and every individual. Jessica is now working as a retail dietitian with the Loblaws In-Store Dietitian Team in the beautiful town of Bowmanville, Ontario.